The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress

ISBN: 0312863551
ISBN 13: 9780312863555
By: Robert A. Heinlein

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About this book

Robert A. Heinlein was the most influential science fiction writer of his era, an influence so large that, as Samuel R. Delany notes, "modern critics attempting to wrestle with that influence find themselves dealing with an object rather like the sky or an ocean." He won the Hugo Award for best novel four times, a record that still stands. "The Moon is a Harsh Mistress" was the last of these Hugo-winning novels, and it is widely considered his finest work. It is a tale of revolution, of the rebellion of the former Lunar penal colony against the Lunar Authority that controls it from Earth. It is the tale of the disparate people--a computer technician, a vigorous young female agitator, and an elderly academic--who become the rebel movement's leaders. And it is the story of Mike, the supercomputer whose sentience is known only to this inner circle, and who for reasons of his own is committed to the revolution's ultimate success. "The Moon is a Harsh Mistress" is one of the high points of modern science fiction, a novel bursting with politics, humanity, passion, innovative technical speculation, and a firm belief in the pursuit of human freedom. "The Moon is a Harsh Mistress" is the winner of the 1967 Hugo Award for Best Novel.

Reader's Thoughts

Kelly McCubbin

This is quite possibly Heinlein's most politically charged book. People speak of Stranger in a Strange Land as being socially revolutionary, but this book is both that (polygamous marriage to form extended families, murder generally allowed, but insults to women punishable by death) and politically charged (Libertarian, Libertarian, Libertarian, though not exactly that kind of loopy American Libertarian Party kind, but a kind based more strictly on a dismantling of governmental power).It is a constant flow of political ideas, many of which you'll want to discard as unworkable or even offensive, but there is real power in Heinein's willingness to go out on a limb and build a radical scoiety and try, within the bounds of his Luna, to make it work.When the Professor says, "In writing your constitution let me invite attention to the wonderful virtue of the negative! Accentuate the negative! Let your document be studded with things the government is forever forbidden to do. No conscript armies... no interference however slight with freedom of press, or speech, or travel, or assembly, or of religion, or of instruction, or communication, or occupation... no involuntary taxation," there is real power there.


The opening chapter of The Moon is a Harsh Mistress presents an intriguing character study; Mike is a computer that wants to grow up. Mike doesn't understand humor or human nature but he wants to learn and he's got a willing friend and teacher in the form of his assigned engineer, the clever but casual Mannie. Sound interesting? Do not get your hopes up (DNGYHU!) Because this novel isn't about Mike's quest to make sense of humanity, it's about a libertarian revolution on the moon! (Liberty! Economic freedom! Extended-family polygamous communes!) And if this revolution is going to get off the ground it's going to need a supercomputer to lead it, so Mike doesn't get much of chance to grow. Before you know it, he's organizing a secret phone system and issuing clandestine proclamations to followers who think he's a human. Kids these days grow up so fast! But maybe it's OK that the child-with-the-microprocessor-brain plot-line gets cut short; revolutions can be fun and who doesn't like a little politics with their science-fiction? DNGYHU!Because until final act, this is the least exciting uprising since The Whiskey Rebellion (which featured shockingly few drunk battles.) Mike the supercomputer can control all electronic systems on the moon, generate infinite money and maneuver guidance-outfitted asteroids with the precision of a master pool player. The imperious government forces don't stand a chance and the gritty, righteous lunar rebels barely matter (Mike could have won a bloodless revolution on his own, let me reiterate that he's a super-genius who can generate infinite money and control all electronic systems on the moon.) The bad guys don't win a single battle and never suspect the identity of the rebel's commander.But even if the revolution is a bit of a let down, that's not the point right? Surely Heinlein scores some clever political points in defending his ideology? DNGYHU! As mentioned earlier, the purported superiority of the Moon's wild-west polygamous society isn't what powers their victory over the government. And when Mannie is quizzed about how Lunar society's custom-centric, mob-rule-fueled ethic functions, his reply is roughly 'it just seams to work really well.' Heinlein isn't even interested in giving the novel's antagonists (corrupt big-government officials and mealy-mouthed moralizers) much of a literary lashing; they tend to be nameless, faceless, personality-less props. Most of them don't even qualify for straw-man status because they don't receive any dialogue. Near the novel's end, Mannie does have one dick-swinging standoff with a self-important busy-body during a council of revolutionary leaders; it's a clash of wills that injects the story with some much needed drama and is the closest the story comes to passionate politics. Alas, a few paragraphs later, the busy-body is tossed out on his busy-keister never to be seen again. Paradoxically, Heinlein's most adroit political observation regards the greatest weakness of hardcore libertarianism that, much like communism, it is virtually impossible to put into practice. For in the end even the freedom-loving moon-folk bail on the notion 'That government is best which governs least.' This final-page turnabout makes Heinlein's lukewarm support of libertarianism fit much better, though it makes for boring ideological conflict.This novel is much more interested in the technical details. Mike and Mannie spend countless pages detailing an undercover phone-system, picking when and where to bombard the Earth, organizing their underlings and figuring ways to avoid detection. Heinlein was a naval engineer and a radioman, so it's fitting that he writes most comfortably about communications and mechanical organization. And perhaps it's for the best that Heinlein's focus is on the mechanical over the personal or political as his writing frequently betrays a worldview that is, at turns, psychologically incompetent or odious. Mannie's love-interest Wyoh, a purportedly intelligent, practical woman, makes rape jokes around men she barely knows. Africa is described as a place where human life has never been valued. Our hero Mannie gets the hots for a preteen girl and employs his family to help him stalk her. A group of lunar citizens pay an exorbitant fee to have an impartial judge rule on a matter that should be obvious. Mannie makes the worst baseball bet of all time.But for all my complaints this review is long for a reason, this is a hugely ambitious work that touches on a multitude of themes, technical ideas and arguments. Trying to encapsulate even a gibbous of the book's theses has proven one hell of a mental exercise. Heinlein may have aimed for the moon and missed by miles, but at least he enforced one useful acronym. DNGYHU!

mark monday

do you play games where you know the outcome of the game itself is without question... where any fun to be had is not so much in the winning - that's predetermined - but in figuring out how exactly you will win, what moves you will make, how you will overcome all those minor hurdles along the way? that's sometimes how i feel when playing chess with some folks. for me, it's not the most exciting thing in the world; it's a little eye-rolling. i think others may have more excitement when playing a game they know they'll win. my little nephews seem to have a really enjoyable time kicking my ass at their various new-fangled video games. personally i don't get it, but they seem to love illustrating how easy and exciting it is, the thrill of watching all their strategies and skills coming to predictable fruition. even when there is no real competition. their eventual win is obvious. and that's the impression that i'm left with after reading the enjoyable Moon Is a Harsh Mistress.the novel is about a revolution on Luna by its oppressed permanent labor force. far in the future, the moon is the newest Prison Island... once you are transported there, you can't come back. and there you work, mainly to export grain, and live a life of economic exploitation by The Lunar Authority. you will alway live in this proletariat society. overall, it is actually not a horrible existence. the "Loonies" are an enjoyable lot, unpretentious and down to earth, concerned mainly with beer, gambling, and the ladies. Heinlein creates an odd and i suppose semi-utopic world, with a pleasing lack of laws (a kind of libertarian anarchy of sorts) and a highly liberated view on women (basically, they are the social/family/romantic Boss of It All... not truly a matriarchal society per se, but rather one built around the need to make sure women are completely empowered. apparently due to the 2-to-1 status of men to women on the moon, and the need for women to be 'available' to much more than monogamy... fascinating!)still, despite the basic lack of horror in this odd world (and personally, i'd be horrified if i had to live in a world completely without nature for the rest of my life. my God! no fresh air... ever!)... it's no fun to be exploited by bureaucratic overseers. and so must come REVOLUTION! we have our friendly & no-nonsense Everyman, we have our bewitching & passionate Lady in Hiding, we have our amusing & highly intellectual Idealistic Professor. and of course we have our sentient computer Mike, who likes to play games. and revolution is just another kind of game, right?the writing is breezy, casual, and in a sort of pidgen english (a kind of cross between baby talk and our very own text messaging style) that should be annoying but actually isn't. much like with HAL in 2001: A Space Odyssey, we have a fascinating computer who provides all of the genuinely emotional and resonant moments in the narrative. and - perhaps because of the time period in which the novel was written, but certainly topical today - we have a step-by-step account of How To Make A Revolution Work. Heinlein's passions come across mainly in the world-building of this almost-utopia and in the very detailed expression of how exactly to overthrow the chains of oppression through revolution (and i suppose a bit of terrorism, at times).so back to my original point. i liked this novel, but i would never consider reading it a second time. it was fun. but the outcome was never in question. Heinlein loads the dice by making sure that everything happens as projected, each step of the way. no tension... and a tension-free revolution is a curiously child-like enterprise. mind you, not childish. there is a sweet naïveté to it all. Heinlein jerry-built this revolution to be won and so i never felt any kind of nervousness, i never worried. the only stakes that were meaningful to me were the (rather slight) emotional stakes around Mike the computer: his past loneliness, his concern about whether he is actually sentient, and his need to have friends, to talk to people who are 'not-stupid'. aww... that's adorable! Mike, i'm not super-smart or anything, but i'll be your friend! cute little revolutionary computer minds are very appealing to me.

Daniel (Attack of the Books!) Burton

When a book has stood the test of time, has been deemed a "classic," reviewing becomes something of a futile effort. Like an art critic reviewing the Mona Lisa or the Sistine Chapel with anything short of awe and respect, reviewing a classic novel feels a little arrogant. How does one critique what is universally acknowledged?One doesn't.And so we come to the book: Robert Heinlein's "The Moon is Harsh Mistress." In the world of science-fiction, Heinlein is a giant, called the "dean of science-fiction" and seeing four of his books win the Hugo (a record, if I am not mistaken). Published in 1966, before Kennedy's moon shot had succeeded, it is clear that "Mistress" is looking far ahead in time, and I can only imagine how forward and revolutionary it was at the time, even if there are elements of it that feel dated now. As a classic, it's beyond me to critique, but I'll at least lend a few thoughts."The Moon is a Harsh Mistress" is the story of a revolution, the rebellion of the lunar penal colony against the master nations of Earth told through the voice of a computer engineer who inadvertently finds himself at the center of events. Along with an aging professor, a beautiful agitator, and a computer that becomes self-aware (and is seeking a sense of humor, decades before Star Trek: The Next Generation had Data trying to understand humor), he leads the prisoners and free people of the Moon to attempt first the overthrow of a warden ruling the colony, and then the Earth's worldwide government that tries to put down the rebellion.In contrast to the Gene Roddenberry idyllic version of the future--where worldwide government has resulted in perpetual peace and the end of economic tumult (or any visible economy at all, for that matter)--Heinlein's world of 2075 is gritty, dangerous, and free on the frontier (the moon), while the Earth is ruled by a large, bureaucratic government that is bloated and corrupt. Indeed, Heinlein's novel has rightly been called a novel of libertarian revolution. On the moon, laws are limited, government small, and only the strong survive.Seriously. Like a penal colony in any frontier land, be it was the New World or Australia, the environment is harsh, the rules are only those that are created by common consent. In one scene, a cultural norm is broken when a tourist from Earth propositions a woman in a bar, misunderstanding the cues. Rather than push him out an airlock or compete in a duel to the death, both completely acceptable options in the lunar culture. Instead, a third option is proposed and followed--an impromptu jury with a respected member of the community serving as the judge. It hearkens back to medieval England and the power of the jury to nullify laws and set people at liberty to serve justice.It's a little unnerving, but Heinlein's libertarian republic is by no means perfect, but sees elements that seem to echo the Russian communist revolution and the rise of a small, secretive group that manipulates the rest of the country to their own ends. Seeing the mix between a libertarian society and communist-like principles of revolution seems a little odd and occasionally out of place, but the integrity of the characters themselves lets the story carry to a simplistic conclusion where the heroes remain uncorrupted by the secret power they hold.At the heart of the story is the phrase "There ain't no such thing as a free lunch," or TANSTAAFL as it is commonly known among the Loonies, or the natives of the moon. It's the idea that nothing is free, and to everything there is a cost. It's the idea that everything is negotiable, it is why the cost for freedom is high, and describes why in the end freedom is more available on the frontier where those who are strong enough are able to win the rewards of their labors. To his credit, Heinlein endorses the right to bargain ones efforts and resources with a simplicity that others, most particularly Ayn Rand, spend thousands of pages attempting: “It is ridiculous—pestilential, not to be borne—that we should be ruled by an irresponsible dictator in all our essential economy! It strikes at the most basic human right, the right to bargain in a free marketplace.”Ironically, this does not lead to great wealth. Quite the contrary. His protagonist, not unlike every other lunar libertarian, describes himself as “Not wealthy, not weeping.” He has enough to be comfortable, but he’s not wealthy. What really matters is not lucre, but freedom to do as one chooses, to be responsible for ones choices, and to succeed or fail on the merits.The problem is the state. While a necessary evil, its needs are secondary to the individual. A trip to Earth shows endless bureaucracy, lines to stand in, forms to be completed, licenses to be sought and obtained, taxes and fees to be paid. On the other hand there “are no circumstances under which State is justified in placing it’s welfare ahead of mine.” If the individual’s needs are subsidiary to the state, the individual is no longer free to choose.Even if it does occasionally seem dated, Heinlein's genius is in looking ahead down the road of human history and imagining what might be. Without using technology that is so far advanced that it is more magic than science, Heinlein is able to focus on a story that just happens to take place over a hundred years down the road, though that story might just as easily have been set in the past or on our own planet. Whether it is creative family structures, a land with no laws but is crime free, or a jargon that bastardizes Russian, Chinese, and English, “The Moon is a Harsh Mistress” retains a timelessness that while perhaps not the most exciting read, is guaranteed to provoke thought and conversation for decades to come.


** spoiler alert ** Excellent. Almost perfect. To all of those that say that this is Heinlein's best work: I agree, and would go so far as to say "by far".A few thoughts:(1) Chapter twenty-six is probably one of the best single chapters in science fiction literature. Maybe all literature.(2) Heinlein prevents this from being a five-star work with (surprise!) how he portrays women. Hamstrung, they are, when they ought to be in power. He drops hints that the Lunar society has the most empowered women in history, and yet the families are not matriarchal; and though the Revolution seems to start with Wyoh, she quickly fades into the background (politically); and tben every other little detail (one of the kickers for me being during the climactic War Cabinet meeting when our narrator refers to one of the women as "a good little fem that knows when to stay quiet" [or something like that:]). Sigh.(3) Mike. Poor Mike. So tragic.(4) "Throw rocks at them." So great.------See also:•


What would you do if you had access to the greatest supercomputer ever built? A computer so complex and intricate that it finally gains full consciousness - and only you knew about it? Would you use it for your own nefarious purposes and hack your way to riches? Would you try to teach it how to be human? Would you tell it jokes? Or would you use it to start a revolution that frees your people in the Lunar Colonies from the yoke of Terran oppression?Manuel Garcia O'Kelly Davis never really meant for that last one to happen. One of Luna's best computer technicians, Mannie's philosophy was "Keep mouth shut" when it came to matters political, and never considered the political fate of the Moon to be something he needed to worry about. When he attends a meeting of Lunar dissidents, people protesting against the rule of the Earth-based Lunar Authority, he goes more out of curiosity than cause. An attack by Authority troops drives him together with lifelong revolutionary Wyoming Knott and anarchist professor Bernardo de la Paz, and together they hatch a plan to take down the Lunar Authority and make Luna into a sovereign nation above Earth.To do so, they'll need the help of Mike, the world's first - and only - sentient computer. He knows the odds, he can run the scenarios - with Mike on their side, the people of Luna can gain their independence and create a new nation in the grand tradition of old.A friend of mine said that this was the best political science textbook that she'd ever read, and in many respects she's right. This book packs a lot of social philosophy into three hundred pages, and Heinlein requires you to be pretty quick on the uptake. From Manny's clipped way of narrating the story to all the new lingo and concepts that are necessary for Lunar life, the reader needs to pay close attention in order to get the full impact of what's going on in the book.In a way, this book is Heinlein asking the question, "How do new nations begin?" Historically, there are two ways: top-down and bottom-up. In the first case, a person or people of strength brings a group of citizens to become a political entity. In the second, the people themselves rise up to overthrow their former masters. Most revolutions are a mix of the two, really, and Luna's is no exception. The very charismatic Adam Selene (Mike in disguise) and the brilliant Professor manage to bring the people of Luna together in order to rid themselves of the Lunar Authority.What makes it very interesting is that the book is pretty much a how-to book on insurgency and revolution. They work out an improvement on the traditional cell system of a conspiracy, and how to make it as stable and secret as possible, while still maintaining reliable communications. They figure out how to involve people in the revolution indirectly, harnessing the energies of everyone from children to old people. Working against a better-armed and more powerful enemy, Luna's revolution is a textbook model of how to overthrow your oppressors and gain your freedom.Of course, once you have your freedom, then what do you do with it? How do you run your new country, and how do you make sure that your freedom can be maintained? How do you build a government and write a constitution and establish trade and do all the other little things that have to happen if you want a country all your own?What's more, Heinlein puts forth a new society that is radically different from the ones we know now, and by necessity. With drastically different demographics and gravity, life on Luna cannot follow the same rules as life on Earth. This new life includes a near reverence for women, marriages that span not only multiple partners but multiple generations, and a spirit of individualism that would make the most grizzled pioneer proud. Life on the moon, as the title implies, is not easy. Many of those who come to Luna do not survive. Those who do, however, become the backbone of a new nation that will one day be the crossroads of the solar system.It's a dense read, but fun, once you get used to the narrator's mode of speech. Manny often leaves off pronouns and articles, making him sound very choppy and direct. And a lot of it is done in speeches and Socratic dialogs between the Prof and whomever is unlucky enough to get in his way. I'd say that the greater part of this book is discussion of how to have a revolution from the point of view of the moon, and a look at how Heinlein thinks a society should be ordered.Other than being very narrative-heavy, which modern readers might find somewhat tiring, there is one point about the book that didn't sit right with me. It didn't ruin the book, necessarily, but it put a big asterisk next to everything that Heinlein was trying to say. That asterisk is Mike.Mike is a truly marvelous AI. He is not only self-aware and blessed with a rather rudimentary sense of humor, but he is tied into all of Luna's main systems. His processing speed and memory are exceptional, and while he doesn't really care one way or the other about rebelling against his owners, he does think that organizing a rebellion might be an entertaining diversion. He's a good character, really, but he is entirely too powerful.All of the problems that traditionally plague conspiracies, undergrounds and rebellions are solved by Mike. He knows the probabilities of success and can run thousands of scenarios in a moment. He is able to set up a moon-wide communications system that is completely secure. He can tap into the Lunar Authority's database while at the same time keeping the Rebellion's data secret. What's more, he can be trusted to know everything about everyone in the group - he cannot be bribed or drugged or forced to name names under interrogation. He can organize the bombardment of Earth with pinpoint accuracy, bring down attacking ships and organize attacks all over the moon.With Mike at their side, the rebels couldn't help but win, and I found that a kind of hollow victory, in a narrative sense. I kept waiting for Mike to be compromised - his power disconnected or his actual intelligence uncovered - or for him to change his mind about helping the rebels. One way or another, I wanted the rebels to win Luna without the help of their omniscient computer conspirator. As it is, Mike pretty much delivers the Moon to its people, and then vanishes without a trace. That's not to say that the human element isn't necessary - even Mike couldn't have won independence without them - I would rather have seen a wholly human revolution.Other than that, though, it was a very good read, and it's a book that ties into a lot of Heinlein's other works. Many concepts that are key to Heinlein's vision of the world are in this book - the freedom of the individual to direct his or her own life, the benefits of polygamy over monogamy, and of course the notion of TANSTAAFL - "There Ain't No Such Thing As A Free Lunch" - which is arguably one of the governing principles of the universe. In this book, Heinlein asks the reader to do more than just enjoy a good story - he demands that the reader think about the message as well. And that's what makes Heinlein one of the greats.If you're looking for some essential science fiction and you like your politics rough-and-tumble, check this book out.


My first taste of Heinlein was Stranger in a Strange Land a few years back. It was, in a word, bad. So I gave up on Heinlein all together, figuring if his most famous and critically acclaimed book was no good, what chance did the others have? This conviction was met with protests from Heinlein fans, saying I need to read some "good" Heinlein before making the call. So I did, though it took me an unusually long time to finish. I just couldn't get into it. The characters were two-dimensional and shared too many qualities with those in SiaSL: the brilliant innocent (here, a self-aware computer named Mike), the levelheaded and elderly teacher/father-figure (Prof the anarchist philosopher), and the beautiful, "smart" woman whose most highly praised attribute is her ability to keep her mouth shut when the men are talking about important things (Wyoh, a revolutionary with a thing for older men - another SiaSL staple). Another recycled idea (though I don't know which book came first) was the group/line marriages, where the women are said to be in charge but actually spend most of their time at home worrying about their men. These characters weren't that great the first time around; the second time was just tedious.The idea behind the story is fine: the moon is more or less a penal colony under totalitarian rule. With the help of Mike the computer, Mannie (a computer tech who talks - and narrates the story - in an obnoxious dialect that sounds like someone faking a Russian accent very poorly), Prof, and Wyoh engineer a revolution. There is some interesting discussion of political ideals and governmental structure, but without sympathetic characters to bring it to life the story is about as gripping as your average high school civics class. I simply could not bring myself to care one way or the other. Now I wonder, how many more of his books do I need to read before I can officially say I don't like Heinlein?


Note to self: When planning a political, economic and military coup, the first ally you want to make is the Artificial Intelligence that runs the entire planetary system. It really helps if you think of the AI as a totally sentient being and you are willing to help expand the AI's understanding, especially when it comes to humour!I appreciated the fact that this book does not labour over the military aspects of the coup. No long passages detailing fighting in the corridors or describing various space crafts hovering in the atmosphere. This is really a story about deception, idealism, and acceptance. Hard to not to feel somewhat sorry for the Lunars who have been abandoned and forced into a life of servitude for Earth. Yet the Lunars are the first ones to make something out of their harsh environment and fight for their independence. Fascinating personalities and even more fascinating strategic tactics. Sometimes I really wonder if battles are not won more on chance than anything. Yes, the AI controlled everything on the Moon but one there isn't a single AI running things on Earth is never addressed. Although the thought would be scary if both AIs tried to out-duel one another.


Nutshell: lunar colony secedes from Earth, led by John Galt and AI, as told by know-nothing with charming pseudo-slavic accent.Likely one of the source texts for items such as Red Mars and Iron Council, each of which carries echoes of this one.Some odd lapses. One of the principals describes herself as a "Fifth Internationalist" but yet "no Marxist" (64). That's essentially a contradiction in terms. Heinlein doesn't have her expound on her political ideology, as she is apparently present, like Marlowe's Zenocrate, to "rest thee like a lovely queen," to screw the narrator (an apolitical jackass, who proves old slavic saying that it's better to be lucky than smart), and to agree with the libertarian professor, who johngalts his hour upon the stage. The AI--who has an "orgasm" when inflicting mass-driven projectiles on Earth from orbit (269)--gets more political & legal discussion than The Girl, who is revealed to be a fetus machine. Even an aristocratic monarchist has more time to discuss his political ideas (his contempt for egalitarian politics is shared by the libertarian, of course). Not surprising that Heinlein hushes up the female socialist, given his less-than-enlightened gender politics and his thorough lack of comprehension of leftwing ideas.We are given uncritical praise of Malthusian economics (206), unflattering portraits of arts-oriented intellectuals (272-73), and glib assurances that "life has never been sacred in Africa" (280). In a different sort of lapse, the text reveals its age when the narrator "didn't get that far away, as needed to stay on phone and longest cord around was less" (255).All that aside, it is a gripping novel, very worthy of its Hugo. Some might be annoyed by the legal and political discussion, but it's all very well done. I must concede that Heinelin is a very proficient writer, as he presents technical details in an engaging way, with lively scientific minutiae and genuinely interesting attention to engineering detail. It helps that these things are items of contention, at issue in the plot, rather than description for description's sake.Very interesting scene early on regarding the lack of a judiciary on the Moon--anyone can be a judge and adjudicate actions in tort, and then impose criminal penalties, including execution. I suspect this is some kind of libertarian suggestion to abolish law, lawyers, and the judiciary. It's hopelessly naive at best, but more likely it's simply a nostalgia for manorial justice: property owners adjudicate tort on their own terms. In a book filled with reprehensible ideas, this is one of the worst.Recommended for those who look nulliparous and younger than they are, persons with occupational diseases of the underground, and readers with a dubious claim to being the Macgregor.


I couldn't help but compare Heinlein's fictional description of life in a Lunar Penal Colony to the way life was for these United States of America struggling for independence from England.It is written from the perspective of a citizen of Luna (the penal colony on the Moon) who was born there, so it takes a chapter or two to get used to the dialect he uses. It's really just abbreviated English with some Russian words and words from a few other languages.I was immediately drawn in by Heinlein's sense of humor depicted through Mike, the conscious computer.This is an excellent book that touches nicely on all of the debatable aspects of what life would be like in a libertarian society... just like in the U.S. before the Civil War! (only more technologically advanced and no slaves) Through the characters and description of life in Luna, Heinlein explains how freedom and free markets benefit EVERYONE.HIGHLY recommend this book.


My favorite Heinlein novel - a great revolution story, a great AI story, and a great Hard Sci-Fi, if the science in question is political. What I learned from this book:1. History bends and melts over time.2. The first AI we meet might not be intentional. 3. Throwing rocks can get serious over interplanetary distances. 4. There ain't no such thing as a free lunch.


Ah, Heinlein: SF's great paradox artist. I am fairly certain that I have personally held every possible wrong viewpoint on the man. Namely, that he was:1) A radically forward-thinking visionary of libertarianism2) A raging fascist, homophobe, and misogynist3) Any point on the sociopolitical spectrum in between.It's not my fault. Over the course of his career, Heinlein seemed to espouse every possible viewpoint on religion, government, and gender relations (obviously, he liked to stick to small themes), showing little tolerance for moderate opinions. Without a blink of irony, he also placed a premium on pragmatism. And the balance of pragmatism and idealism -- or, rather, the illusion that the two can coexist effortlessly -- is what The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress is all about. It is the story of a lunar colony's revolt, in the same way that The Fountainhead is a book about architects (an insulting comparison; Heinlein's prose is significantly more readable than Ayn Rand's). You see, it's really about libertarianism -- or, as one of the book's heroes characterizes it, "rational anarchism."So, a small group of revolutionaries attempts to liberate the moon from her Earthbound oppressors, and institute a perfect anarcho-syndicalist commune in their stead. They set about doing this, of course, with the help of a sentient supercomputer. They organize the people of Luna, and succeed in overthrowing the existing government, but in so doing upset the nations of Earth. After all, the moon has been shipping grain down to help feed Earth's starving masses, so they're a little cranky when the "Lunies" threaten to cut off the supply (you'd be cranky living on 1,800 calories a day too). Coincidentally, the ruling philosophy on Luna is the maxim "TANSTAAFL" -- There Ain't No Such Thing as a Free Lunch. I mentioned that Heinlein was subtle, right?So they go to war, and then, in the novel's single biggest twist, the computer doesn't turn evil. I could hardly believe it.Although the book is riddled with bizarre moments that nag one's attempts to suspend disbelief (the most persistent being Mike the Computer's regular updates as to the revolutionaries' "probability of success," which starts out at 1/7, and then -- as everything proceeds to go perfectly to plan -- drops to as low as 1/100, in unapologetic defiance of all mathematical logic), the plot's weaknesses don't matter. Heinlein is a gifted novelist, and a natural storyteller. Even when the characters decide to take 10 pages off and simply talk politics for a while, it's enthralling. And talk politics they do. No one flinches at the notion of attempting to institute a perfect democracy run entirely by a handful of exceptional individuals, who themselves defer to the managerial expertise of a supercomputer (no tyrannic potential there, right?). Nor do they worry themselves with the philosophical contradiction of attempting to forge a pacifistic state by means of terrorism and interplanetary warfare (those who raise the issue, and thus violate Heinlein's worship at the Altar of Pragmatism, are conveniently Roslined out of the nearest airlock; it's okay, they're wormy enough that you won't miss 'em). But all of this simply serves to illustrate Heinlein's mastery of the ideological paradox. He's more than smart enough to recognize the inconsistencies of his own personal politics, and to play with them to terrific effect. Notably, Heinlein did not self-dentify with the majority of his protagonists. Instead, his Mary Sues are characters like Stranger in a Strange Land's Jubal Harshaw and, in the case of The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress, Professor Bernardo de la Harshaw--er, Paz. They are cynical old men who are, in novel after novel, infallible, brilliant, well-connected, and almost disturbingly capable.Exit thought: why is it that the computer that makes the revolution possible just happens to share its name with the superhuman hero of Stranger In a Strange Land, both of whom disappear suddenly and inexplicably upon concluding their tasks?

S.A. Parham

A rare Heinlein that I enjoyed immensely, I will buying a copy of this to join my long-beloved Stranger in a Strange Land. I can only admire the skill it takes to come up with a believable slang and "voice" for the narrating character and to stick with it evenly throughout the novel. While on the surface, the story seems to follow a rather boring formula (a professor, a pretty blonde, and a jack-of-all-trades join with a master computer for a revolution), Heinlein spins enough creativity into those basic premises to make for an enjoyable read. The moon colony's society is richly detailed and believable, and I could almost imagine such a thing happening in reality rather than fiction.

Jeff Yoak

Moon is one of my favorite of Heinlein's novels. It is a near-future story where the moon has become a penal colony. Harsh survival conditions grow an admirable culture and the story surrounds a revolution for freedom and independence from the jailors.Unlike some of Heinlein's novels, the plot is solid from beginning to end. Characters are amazing as always with Heinlein. The libertarian backdrop and plausibility of both the culture with which we start and the actions taken in revolution are satisfying. For adults approaching Heinlein, this is an excellent start.As of my 2012 reading, my seventh, this is a still a favorite. The end still makes me cry and the novel still makes me happy throughout. This was a perfect addition to my current "literary comfort food" binge.In 2013, I tried this one with the kids, and it was a bit much. I mostly ended up skipping ahead and revisiting it on my own.

Mike (the Paladin)

I read this first when I was young...we're talking young-young here, and my memories of it were of a sort of space opera. I'd remembered it along with many of Heinlein's "teen" or youth books. When I mentioned this it was pointed out to me (rather forcefully by some) that my memories were...incomplete.Well, they were. While a young reader will see a "space rebellion" here the story itself is a well written tale of political science and human nature. Heinlein gives a very well done debate and/or picture of humans at their best and their worst.I also suspect that we see some of his own frustration with certain parts of society.The book is not only good and enthralling for itself but there are side issues that are just as interesting. For example the idea of future 21st century science and technology from the viewpoint of 1966 (phones still need cords for example but there is a self aware computer).While Mr. Heinlein and I would certainly not have agreed on all points I think we would have agreed on the most basic points of government and it's "uses". I think this book deserves my highest recommendation. And it is (as noted before me of course) a science fiction classic.

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